“Christ plays in ten thousand places”
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, As Kingfishers Catch Fire
Wednesday, 28 October 2020
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, As Kingfishers Catch Fire)
Loving our neighbour is an opportunity not only to show others God’s image in ourselves but also to discover the image of God in those neighbours we find difficult to love. Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested in his little work, Life Together, that there are four things we can do when faced with people who are difficult to love: practice the ministries of holding one’s tongue; of meekness; of being there for others; and bearing one another’s burdens.
The first of these is what he calls ‘the ministry of holding one’s tongue’. This is the discipline of refraining from that automatic, almost subconscious tendency to pass comment, to make a sarcastic remark, to make a put-down or dismissal, or even just to smother someone else’s contributions with our own immediate thoughts. It demands that we exercise wisdom and restraint in what we say.
Too often we live our lives as if narrated by an internal soap opera, whereby we constantly comment to ourselves. We can all too easily allow this commentary to dominate and shape our reality. So instead of paying the proper attention to our neighbour, we are consumed by our instant and judgmental commentary. We turn our minds, not to the reality out there, but to a fantasy soap opera in there. And before we know it, those thoughts have become far more real than the reality of the other person whom we encounter.
Bonhoeffer says that “Where the discipline of the tongue is practised, right from the beginning, each individual will make a matchless discovery. They will be able to cease from constantly scrutinizing the other person, and they will allow their sister or brother to exist as God made them to be. And that will mean that they will see, for the first time, shining above that sister or brother, the richness of God’s creative glory.”
The other person is the place where we discover God. “Christ plays in ten thousand places” as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, “to the Father through the features of men’s faces.”